Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pay to Play –I Mean Live

This is a horrible practice. I just heard about this yesterday and I keep wondering why on earth our government is doing it.

...the State Department, in stark contrast to the Canadian government, is requiring U.S. citizens caught in Lebanon to pay for the cost of their evacuation. (Rep. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has since weighed in, saying that this was no time "for quibbling over payment for evacuation.")

I called up the State Department to ask about the policy. "We are not standing there with a cash box asking people to pay before they get on the boat," spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told me. But if they don't pay (by check, no cash or credit cards accepted), or sign a form promising to pay, they don't go. It's the law: "Reasonable commercial air fare" shall be charged to all evacuees.

What if they're dead?

Same deal, she said. No freebies, even if you're not around to enjoy it.

Hironimus said that she didn't know the exact fee being charged. Evacuees are signing promissory notes. Those citizens will find out how much they owe when they get the bill in the mail.

And if a U.S. citizen is killed waiting to evacuate -- or because they stayed behind, unable to promise their government they could pay?

"We arrange with their families," Hironimus said. "We discuss their choices, but it’s paid for by the families."

Alive or dead they shouldn’t have to pay at all and I’m appalled that they are required by law to do so. When did this law get passed and why? Too many cheapskate tourists trying to get free passage by scheduling get-aways in potential war zones? It makes absolutely no sense to me.

Update: Apparently the White House has reversed it's position and will be waiving the costs. But only because everyone raised a stink, not becuse they thought there was really anything wrong with the concept, I'm sure.


JeromeProphet said...

Really strange isn't it?

John said...

I love it when people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Thanks for covering this. I wasn't aware of it. Ridiculous, really.